The Germans, the Dutch and the Beautiful Game
When it comes to business, relations between the Netherlands and Germany couldn't be better. The two nations enjoy close economic ties, with Germany being the Netherlands' most important trading partner.
They frequently work together to achieve common political goals too, and they share strong social and cultural bonds. They are friendly neighbours, and their close relationship benefits both sides. However, when it comes to football, the story is an entirely different one...
Football is war
Germany and the Netherlands are without doubt two of the most passionate football nations in the world, and this alone makes them heated rivals. But there is more to it than simple patriotism and a shared enthusiasm for the beautiful game.
This longstanding rivalry, which is one of the best known in international football, began in 1974 when the Dutch lost the World Cup final to West Germany, although it is said to have been borne from the anti-German sentiment that resulted from the Second World War. Of course, this sentiment waned significantly as time passed, but the animosity remained for some time.
The rivalry between the two teams was at its fiercest in the 1980s, when insults were often hurled between fans as players became aggressive on the pitch. Who can forget the tussle between Toni Schumacher and Huub Stevens in the group stage of the 1980 European Championships? It was the very same match in which Rene van de Kerkhof punched Bernd Schuster in the eye.
Then, in 1988, the relationship took a different turn when the Netherlands defeated Germany in the semi-final of the Euros. Up until this point, hostility had primarily been displayed by the Dutch towards the Germans. But following the Dutch victory, the Germans decided enough was enough and suddenly became much more vocal.
Of course, this could have something to do with the fact that after winning the match 2-1 thanks to a goal by Marco van Basten in the final minute, Ronald Koeman from the Dutch national team pretended to wipe his bottom with the shirt of Olaf Thon, causing outrage among the German fans.
As former Dutch coach Rinus Michels once said, football is war, and this was definitely the case between the Germans and the Dutch. It continued on in 1990 when, during a World Cup match, Dutch player Frank Rijkaard spat at German striker Rudi Voller.
Since then, both sides have calmed down a little and today, tensions don't run quite so high. For some fans, any match between Germany and the Netherlands will be akin to war, but for many the animosity has dissolved and what it left is mostly friendly banter.
Three things the German fans might not know about the Dutch game...
1) Dutch footballing philosophy has been heavily influenced by Johan Cruijff, who counts as the country's best player. Everyone in the Netherlands, whether they are a football fan or not, is said to be able to reproduce at least one of his classic quotes. Among them are "Every disadvantage has its advantage", "If you can't win, make sure you don't lose", "If I wanted you to understand it, I would have explained it better" and, rather enlighteningly, "The ball is an essential part of the game". Dutch football commentators use his lines frequently.
2) A group of female fans attending a Netherlands match against Denmark during the last World Cup were arrested by police who accused them of ambush marketing. The women in question were wearing orange mini dresses, handed out for free by Dutch beer company Bavaria ahead of the tournament. Apparently official sponsor Budweiser was the only beer firm allowed to advertise within Fifa venues, so the ladies were kicked out even though their attire did not bear any branding. "Fifa don't have a monopoly over orange," said Bavaria's Peer Swinkels. The Dutch fans would no doubt agree with him.
3) The Dutch national team are a very diverse bunch. Dirk Kuyt's childhood ambition was to be a fisherman on a North Sea trawler, Nigel de Jong owns a massive car dealership that operates in Europe and the Middle East, Rafael van der Vaart grew up on a Romani gypsy caravan park and Robin van Persie apparently has a pool table with a picture of himself printed onto the baize.
And vice versa...
1) German footballing philosophy has also been heavily influenced by one of the country's biggest sporting names. This time, it is player and manager Sepp Herberger, who's most famous quote is "the ball is round". What he actually said was "The ball is round so that the game can change direction", but the former version is much more widely quoted for obvious reasons. His other famous phrases include "After the game is before the game", "The game lasts for 90 minutes" and "If one doesn't know where to pass the ball, one must just put it in the goal". Words of wisdom indeed.
2) Between 1950 and 1956 Germany had three national teams. These were West Germany, East Germany and Saarland. After that, it was just West and East Germany, until re-unification in 1990 when they merged to become one squad. It's nickname? Die Mannschaft, which translates to 'the team'. Pretty imaginative really.
3) Germany's players have signed quite a few celebrity endorsement deals in their time. Thomas Muller has acted as the face of Muller yoghurts alongside former West Germany striker Gerd Muller, while former German captain Michael Ballack has reportedly signed an endorsement agreement with online travel company Ab-in-den-Urlaub.de. And it's not just the players; German coach Jogi Low features in TV advertisements for men's skincare products.